FAQs on certified translations in Germany
The formal requirements for certified translations may vary from one country to another. Customers may ask themselves why the certified translation of their documents looks the way it does. Also, they might be overwhelmed by the information they are given.
Producing certified translations is a professional service that should also be carried out by professionals only. If the translated document does not show all the required features, the relevant authority might not accept the translation that you have paid money for.
I would like to try and shed a little bit of light on some of the frequently asked questions. In Germany, we have clearly defined rules on how to prepare certified translations (often also referred to as sworn translations). There are some documents from the Regional Courts (Landgerichte) or other relevant administrative bodies that summarize the requirements and features a certified translation must show. Personally, I find the guidelines for preparing certified translations published by the professional association of interpreters and translators in Germany (BDÜ) very useful. A copy of these guidelines may be downloaded here. The document is available in German only, though.
Who is allowed to prepare certified translations?
In Germany, only sworn translators may prepare certified translations. In order to be sworn in, they must prove that they are qualified to do the job. Which they can do either by proving their university education level or by passing a state-approved examination. By the way: The titles for sworn translators in Germany may vary from one "Land" to another. Sometimes they are called "beeidigter Übersetzer" or, as in my case, "ermächtigter Übersetzer". Both terms mean that they are "authorized" to produce certified translations.
Where can I find a sworn translator?
The professional association of interpreters and translators in Germany (BDÜ) has an extensive register of all members offering translation services. You can search for translators in different language pairs and areas of expertise. They also list all member colleagues offering sworn translations. Try out their sesarch at: https://search.bdue.de/
Who can become a sworn translator?
Basically everyone who proves their qualification. You don't need to have a university degree. If you have sufficient knowledge of the language, you may apply for state examination. Everyone who then passes the respective exams may call themselves a "sworn translator".
Which details must the translation bear?
The translation must bear the endorsement of the translator along with their seal and signature. The endorsement must also indicate translator's name and contact details as well as the date and the place where the translation was produced. Also, the title authorizing the translator to produce the certified translation must be indicated in the endorsement. The translation shall also bear a header mentioning the source and target language and indicate whether the text was translated from the original, a true copy or a simple copy. It is common practice to attach a coppy of the source text.
What is an endorsement and is it really necessary?
Every certified translation must bear an endoresement. It is the part the actually makes the translation a certified one, because it has the seal and signature of the translator along with their contact details. It also confirms that the translation is true and accurate and indicates whether or not the translation was made from the original or a copy.
Why are there no signatures from the original document on my certified translation?
A certified translation may be like an original, but it is not in fact. A signature is unique and may only be placed by the person to who it does belong to. That means that any signature must be removed for the translation and a note be placed instaed indicating that there is a signature on the original in that particular spot.
I don't like the way the translation reads. What can I do?
Sometimes our hands are tied when it comes to translations of official documents. There are clearly defined rules on how to proceed with state names for example. Or what to do with proper names, stamps, signatures etc. Also, we are obliged to put a note for every odd detail like handwritten text, stains etc. The goal with sworn translation is always to be accurate in every detail and not to produce a well-written piece of poetry. Or a text that pleases the customer. After all, a certified translation is equal to an original official public documents with all legal effects that it may imply.
Do I have to send the original documents to the translator?
As the translation shall bear a comment indicating whether the translation was produced from the original or a copy, I recommend submitting the original to the translator. If that is possible. The original is always more reliable than a copy. A true copy is somewhat equal to an original. Sometimes it might not be possible to submit the original. In which case a translation "from the copy" is an option. Although I would recommend here to check back with the recipient of the translation if they will accept it from the copy.
Can a sworn translator from my home country prepare my certified translation and can I use that translation in Germany then?
That depends on whether or not the German authority asking for the translation will accept it from a translator who is not registered as sworn translator in Germany. Please do inquire with the relevant authority.
As a sworn translator before the Courts of Germany
with long-standing professional experience,
holder of a university degree in Translation Studies and
full member of the German Professionals’ Association of Interpreters and Translators (BDÜ),
I offer sworn translations of your public documents.